The Gift of Discipline
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."- Hebrews 12:11
The welcoming of a new year brings with it a sense of RELIEF for those whose 2016 was nightmarish, a sense of FOCUS for those who are looking to get off to a solid start and grow in specific areas, and a sense of HOPE for those believing for better days and many blessings ahead. As I think about the start of 2017, there is a word that begins with the letter "D", that we tend to avoid and that creates an overall disdain with just the mere thought or mention of the word. The word that I am thinking of is DISCIPLINE. Often at the start of the new year people establish a set of resolutions and goals that they seek to implement in order to see different and improved results: Spending less time watching television; becoming healthier through diet and exercise; breaking a bad habit; completing a project; becoming a better spouse and/or parent seem to top the list each year.
In the midst of entering a new year and evaluating areas that need focusing, addressing, and improving I felt the Lord prompt me with a message on this subject of discipline through His Spirit. The Lord revealed the following concept to my heart and mind, "Many who seek instant satisfaction compromise the ultimate destination, while the few who choose a path of discipline will discover the place of My answer, fulfillment, and victory." Let me share a story from my teenage years that drives this truth home.
One season while playing baseball in the local park and recreation league I found myself in a terrible slump: I couldn't hit the ball and I made so many errors in the field, that my confidence, joy, and patience levels were completely shot. During one practice I made a mistake in one of the drills that so upset our coach that he barked at me to run a lap around the entire park (not just the ball field). I felt singled out and I was adamant in my belief that the punishment didn't fit the crime! As I got about halfway around the park I chose to quit running the lap by taking a quick detour to a friend's house across the street where I could get a snack, play video games, and complain about my coach. I never returned to practice that day. As a teenager I had little thought of any fallout, so I showed up the following Saturday for our game in full uniform, ready to play ball. The coach approached me to inform me that not only would I not be playing the game on that day, but I was suspended for the final three games of the season! That moment was shocking and disappointing at so many levels. What I thought was a place of refuge from running a lap ended up being a place of refuse that ruined my season. As I sheepishly made my way up the bleachers to watch the game from the stands, everything in me wished I could play, wished I had just ran the lap, and wished that I hadn't let my emotions get the best of me.
As we enter into this Year of New Mercies for our church family, I want us to see how the Lord has provided so many things in our lives that should be seen as MERCY GIFTS. Over the month of January our teaching series will focus on different gifts, blessings, and mercies the Lord has provided that often come in a form that seems far more costly than comfortable, and decisively against what our flesh craves. The writer of Psalm 94:12 says, "Blessed is the one You discipline Lord, the one You teach from Your law." Our series this month will better help us focus on, implement, and welcome heavenly treasures that come in the form of such faith disciplines as PRAYER, SABBATH, FASTING, and FORGIVENESS. I have found that these areas, along with the many other things the Lord calls us to (i.e.- Reading the Bible; a life of service; sharing my faith with others), are often met with an initial response of resistance or perhaps running as far away from as possible. These areas that can be difficult to make room for and maintain in our daily schedules can seem unpleasant at first but, if applied and adhered to, can release the most delightful and impactful results one could imagine. I know that in my own walk with the Lord I have incorporated disciplines for 2017 that include a new Bible reading schedule and a prolonged/focused season of fasting.
Here are some Scriptures that speak to the grand importance and wonderful impact of choosing discipline over personal satisfaction and choosing to run the entire lap than taking our own route:
Matthew 7:13-14- "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
Matthew 16:25- "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."
Proverbs 3:11-12- "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in."
Hebrews 10:36- "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."